Raytheon Technologies Co and Northrop Grumman Corp have won US contracts to continue developing missiles to intercept hypersonic weapons, the Pentagon said on Friday. The decision means Lockheed Martin Co., the No. 1 US defence contractor, which had also been competing for a contract, has been eliminated for now from the multibillion-dollar program, but could be pulled back in at a later date. In November, the three companies were awarded separate contracts totalling about $60m to develop an interceptor guided by a constellation of satellites and sensors to intercept a hypersonic missile inside Earth’s atmosphere as it glides towards its target. The contracts will reduce the number of companies developing the systems to just two. As with any defence contract, companies that did not win have the right to protest the decision. The Missile Défense Agency (MDA) awarded a contract of up to $62m to Raytheon and up to $60m to Northrup for each company to continue developing hypersonic weapon interceptors. Hypersonic weapons are capable of flight at speeds five times the speed of sound, and can manoeuvre mid-flight, which makes tracking them difficult. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said MDA’s internal cost estimates for an interceptor system ranged from $3.7b-$4.2b with accelerated funding. Congress’ 2023 draft defence budget includes funds to accelerate the development of the program, but that bill has not yet been finalized. The GAO report recommended that the MDA get independent cost and technology assessments for the interceptor.